Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Information Literacy and the 21st Century: a personal view #lilac13

The final keynote at the LILAC conference #lilac13 in Manchester, UK, was from JP Rangaswami,’s Chief Scientist and chairman of School of Everything. His talk was called Information Literacy and the 21st Century: a personal view. He started by emphasising his belief in the importance of people being able to use and access information. He said that "librarian" meant many things to people (from indices to a shoulder to cry on).
Culture was the first word he put on the screen after that, and talked about how although he himself had loads of books and liked them - books were just one mature technology, albeit a likely sustainable one. At this point her referred to his TED talk, Information is food, which I have embedded below:

Putting up pictures of ancient libraries, he said that "You want people to be in places where information is with joy" - so that people need to enjoy being in the space with information, including the library. Like the first keynoter, he talked about the importance of discriminating between information sources, and being aware of how photoshopping and juxtaposing text and image in what seems an authoritative way can mislead and misinform. Another emerging decisive factor is how shareable and transparent the source is: leading to the success of wikipedia. He pointed out that "sharing happens by design". He felt that this ability to share was restoring the possibility for community that had been disrupted by the growth of easy physical mobility: so people who formerly had had to live in physical proximity could (through improved transportation) been able to disperse, but couldn't neccessarily keep or develop community. Now technology had "caught up" with physical transportation, so communities could be brought with you or newly formed via technology.

The nature of worth and value in relation to information (including books) brought him back to the issue of looking at the book as a form of technology: not conflating the delivery mechanism and the content or message. That was another important thing to discriminate about.

He referred to librarians as advisors, who it was important to trust. This is an important role and librarians can be the "one teacher" who makes a difference and learners talk about afterwards.  This led to talking about the value of story, and librarians as "the future of storytelling". He also gave a new definition of information literacy as "the ability to tell stories" (with accuracy). He saw information as our past, present and future, not a mere commodity.

The talk was very engaging and interleaved with the speaker's own stories and anecdotes, and so I couldn't capture the exact flavour: it is worth looking at a video of him in person.

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